Monday, September 7, 2015

Family Reunion 2015

Country Roads...
Take me home..
To the place, I belong...

West Virginia.......

We traveled this past weekend to the beautiful state of West Virginia. The destination was Charleston, W.Va., for the (2nd!) Armstrong Family Reunion (Organized by Jill!!!). To have my cousins in my life again, not to mention my Aunt Esther, is amazing in so many ways. Family bonds can be bruised, shaken, or abandoned for a time. But the roots of the Family Tree run deep, especially in the West Virginia soil. We came together this past Labor Day weekend, and two words sum it up...FUN...and... LOVE.

We started by paying homage to those who have gone before us.

My brother John and husband Bill walking through the graveyard of beloved family....

The Grandparents...

Gertrude Armstrong

Paul Armstong

Their final resting place...

Next, we stopped at the old homestead....which is no more. The tidy little homes of yesterday are all gone.

My Grandparents home used to stand on this empty land...

The homes are gone, but that doesn't stop the memories. We played kickball in the front yard with our cousins. We ran down the path to our Betty-by's house. We visited with our Uncle Richard and Aunt Virginia. We watched the creek rise, and the coal trains go by while sucking on drippy popsicles. So many memories of days gone past.

We all took a dip in here (sometimes with a bar of soap!) during the dog days of August...

This was the view from my Grandparent's kitchen window. I remember my Papaw having his morning coffee and gazing out the window at this view.

A group photo taken on Crawford Bottom Road...

But being a part of the present was what the trip was really about. Connecting with our family. My people...

My cousins Jennifer and Jill and her husband Mike. I love them so much!

Jennifer and her lovely family...

My sister Kim with our cousin Rita. I also met Rita's beautiful daughters and adorable grandsons.

My cousin Kevin and his lovely wife Shelly and daughter Jamie,(and beautiful Kadie who turned away at the last minute!).

My cousin Ricky and his wife Rhonda. I haven't seen them since I was 15 years old. I also met his daughter and granddaughter. They are gorgeous!

Cousin Leasa McNeely with Rhonda, Amanada, and her daughter.

My Aunt Esther, Joey and Leann, and my cousin Jennifer's son, Ben.

It was so wonderful to spend time with my brother Johnny and his wife Georgia.

My cousin Kevin, mugging while hugging...

My Aunt Judy and Aunt Esther....

My sister Kelley and her husband Randy....

There was peanut butter fudge and zucchini cakes, banana nut bread, and blueberry cakes. The were all baked by Esther with the help of her wonderful husband, John. Not only was it the best fudge ever made, it brought back memories of holidays at the grandparents house. .

A group photo was taken after dinner. I just love each one of these people so much. There is shared history, family ties. It was sad when the trip was over, but I know we will be together again. There was so much love and joy in the room. That was real. This family will survive and thrive.

A strong, loving family is a legacy worth nurturing. We will carry on. We will live, love, and remember the loved ones who have passed on. I believe in some way, they are still walking among us, supporting us on our journey as we live our lives, and raise the next generation in our family values....Live with respect for others, love with all your heart, work hard, and have fun!

On the way home, Bill and I stopped in Charlottesville, Va., for a glass of wine at my favorite winery, Pollack. Anything to delay the inevitable that the reunion weekend was over.

I am already looking forward to the next reunion....did I hear Cleveland mentioned????

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Baked...For Breakfast

In the depths of Winter I learned
There was in me an invincible summer.

by Albert Camus

This poem really spoke to me this past week as most of the country was put into a deep freeze. It was bitterly cold here. On a frosty mornings I like to make a hot breakfast, however, it must be easy because cooking in the morning is not my favorite thing. I made Baked Oatmeal one day. The beauty of this dish, is you can make it the night before, then just heat it up before serving.


Baked Oatmeal

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a large bowl mix together the dry ingredients:

3 cups of quick cooking oats ( I used rolled oats)
1 cup of packed brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt

To the dry mixture add:

1 cup milk

2 eggs (beaten)

1/2 cup butter (melted)

Mix together and pour into a 9 inch baking dish

Bake for 45 minutes

It smells so good when it's cooking! Slice and crumble into a bowl and serve with milk. Delicious! You can also add walnuts, raisins, and chopped dates to this and bake for extra goodness.


I love eggs for breakfast. However I usually scramble them or make a fried egg. I think 3 or 4 years ago I poached my very first egg. Well I've dawned on a new horizon and baked my first egg. It was easy to assemble and very tasty, too.

Baked Eggs

In a 7 oz. ramekin add:

2 tblsp. cream
2 fresh eggs

Salt and pepper to taste
Shredded Cheddar Cheese

Sprinkle some Panko on top
Add some dried Dill (or seasoning of your choice)

Bake at 400 degrees for 13-15 minutes. This gave me a medium set yolk. If you want a completely set yolk, bake a minute or so more. If only making one egg, cook for 11 -13 minutes.


Monday, January 5, 2015

Reflections and Hope

Each New Year begins full of possibility, and as each year comes to a close, you know that you are not the same person you were at the beginning.

This year has had it's highs and lows, births and deaths. We had new beginnings, and starting's been quite a year.
Before I go too far I want to reflect on a loss that hit me hard. My daughter lost all her possessions in a house fire. People were saved, stuff was lost. But in addition to losing things that can be replaced, and memorabilia and photos that cannot, was the loss of life of two precious cats, Bean and Whitney. I admittedly didn't know Bean very well. But, I loved Whitney very much. She spent a great deal of time with me over the years due to my daughter's various living and travelling situations. She kneaded my belly every night with this glazed, "I'm stoned and love everyone" look to her face for about 10 minutes. She was the great hunter of all things "Mole" in my yard. For all the blessings to be thankful for from the fire, her perishing in it was a tragedy and it hit me and others very hard.

My Dear Whitney:

You were your mommy's first real love, and my sweetest little darling. I loved looking into your face and seeing pure innocence. No longer seeing you keep watch in my yard, which you loved, is a sight I will miss forever. May you run free, play hard and sleep sweet, at the Rainbow Bridge, and know that you will forever be missed by mommy and me. I miss you sweetie, but mommy misses you more.

So looking forward, I want to spend more time this year with the people in my world. Those that I love. What is of greater importance than making memories with those we love?

I want to spend time with my husband of 36 years. We are so fortunate to have already spent so many wonderful years together. Since the age of 14, we have been a part of each other's life. I pray we have many more years ahead of us.

We have built a life together, and through laughter and tears raised four beautiful, exasperating, wonderful, strong-willed children. Each one is a part of us, and I wouldn't change a thing, because each unique individual is loved for who they are.

I pray that I still have time to teach them that they are important to each other because they are FAMILY and family always sticks together and looks out for each other.

I want to spend more time with my grandchildren. I know everyone who has grandchildren loves their grandchildren. I just happen to have the BEST GRANDCHILDREN in the world...someone had to. :) I pray that in 2015 I can spend meaningful time with them. I want to teach them lessons that are so important, they become memories that guide them through life. Short of that lofty goal, I'd like to have some fun with them this year.

My first grandson was born in 2014. John Warren Lowery, 7lbs 11 ozs, was born on May 31, 2014:

He already senses we are his people.....

I want to spend more time with my wonderful Granddaughters. There are no other girls throughout the world as beautiful and wonderful as my granddaughters. They are now one and eight years old. I love them more than my own life.

I would love to spend more time in 2015 with my extended family. My brother Jim, at age 48, had a stroke in October. He is recovering, but this was another sign of how quickly life can change. I don't want to have any regrets, or things unsaid, or hurts not forgiven, with my family.

I want to travel more. I visited the I love Lucy Museum, in Jamestown, NY, this past September, which was serious bucket list material:

The most meaningful part of the trip to me was visiting her grave.

During the same trip, we visited Cleveland, Ohio where we toured The Christmas Story House (Ralphie with his Beebee Gun):

But the best part of the trip was connecting with family that I have spent the better part of 30 years not being connected with. Nothing takes the place of people God has put into your lives for a reason. I love all of my family, and I vow that in 2015 I will connect more, on a more personal level, with each one.

God has put us together for many different reasons, not the least of which is to grow us. I pray I can be a blessing and a help to others in my family during 2015. May others know Jesus because they know me. May God bless each member of this family during 2015.

As 2014 came to a close, we had a wonderful Christmas celebration together. I pray that 2015 brings many opportunities to show love and understanding to each other. Memories are made by the special times we spend with the ones we love.

Happy New Year from my family to yours. May 2015 bring happiness and blessings to us all.